After one of his finest starts of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays, Martin Perez is slated to take on a unique challenge this time out — facing the only other team he’s ever known.
Perez is facing the Texas Rangers on Friday night, the team signed him as an amateur free agent back in 2007 and developed him into the big-league pitcher he is today. In all, Perez spent 11 seasons in the Rangers organization before signing with the Minnesota Twins in the offseason.
It’s just another in a long line of guys with reunions of some sort this season. Jonathan Schoop had his first games against Baltimore earlier this season, and the same goes for Nelson Cruz (Mariners), C.J. Cron (Angels) and of course, even manager Rocco Baldelli (Rays).
It means something different to every player, Baldelli said.
“I’m sure it’s a little bit of a lot of things,” Baldelli said. “It’s a little bit of a different feeling than playing any other team. There’s certainly an emotional aspect to it. Everyone’s a little different. Some people probably don’t think about it a lot. Some people don’t think about it as much, they just prepare and go play the game.
“I can’t speak for Martin, I don’t know exactly how much it’s been on his mind. The more you can just focus on making a good pitch, as opposed to worrying about who you’re making that good pitch against, I would say is probably the best approach.”
For Baldelli, it’s a busy time when he takes on the Rays, he said.
“There are so many people you end up needing/wanting to talk to and spend time with,” Baldelli said. “Your general schedule and routine can get thrown off at times. When we would play Tampa Bay, my days were not very much like when we would play other teams. It was very different. Just because of the conversations, the time, the media…everything’s a little different.
“That’s OK for me; I’ll be fine. I don’t have to go out there and play. But for our other guys, we want to make sure they’re able to lock in on whatever it is they need to do to prepare for the game and just go do it.”
So what does Perez need to do to be successful? Baldelli says commanding his four-seam fastball in with the cutter away — like he did against the Rays last time out — is a big thing for him.
“In general, and this holds true with a few guys, but it definitely holds true with Martin, when he commands the ball to both sides of the plate, and lives over the white to both sides of the plate and does what he wants to do in that fashion, he’s really tough,” Baldelli said. “He’s really good. We know that that cutter has become a pretty big pitch for him but I think when he can go away, he can go in with the four-seamer, then throw the cutter off it, it’s tough to go up there as a hitter and feel good about it when he’s doing all of that.”
Rosario is eligible to come off the injured list on Sunday, and did some straight-line running during Friday’s pregame routine. However, it’s more likely the Twins will wait until after the All-Star break to bring back their left fielder, Baldelli intimated.
“He’s definitely making a lot of progress,” Baldelli said. “We’re not going to have a date where he’s going to be back. Obviously, we have the break coming up. He can be activated Sunday. I would say it’s unlikely that we are going to activate him before the break but once the break ends we’re hopeful that he’s going to be ready soon.
Astudillo — who has been moving around the clubhouse pretty gingerly of late — is further off in his recovery from a left oblique strain, however.
“(Astudillo’s) not going to be taking part in baseball activity for probably a little while,” Baldelli said. “There’s not a lot that he can do in the early parts of his rehab. An oblique-related injury is not something that just heals up and all of a sudden you start taking swings and throwing.
“It’s a fairly significant oblique injury and so we are going to have to let him heal before we can do anything.”
Baldelli said that Astudillo’s return would absolutely be on the other side of the All-Star break.
On Friday the Twins announced that reliever Blake Parker was being placed on the paternity list and right-handed pitcher Kohl Stewart was being recalled from Triple-A Rochester. It was unclear if Stewart was expected to be at the park in time for Friday’s game, but he was not in the clubhouse during media availability.
The paternity list means a player will miss at least one but no more than three games to attend the birth of their child, though it comes at a time where Parker could miss up to a week with the All-Star break coming right on the heels of this three-game series against the Rangers.
Stewart, meanwhile, is a candidate to start for the Twins in Sunday’s first-half finale, but Baldelli was not ready to make that declaration quite yet — especially in light of how many strange, extra-inning ballgames the team has played of late.
Five of the team’s last 22 games have gone into extra frames.
“First of all we don’t make any assumptions, because the last time we played a 17 inning game, we thought we certainly would not be playing another 17 inning game,” Baldelli said when asked about the current ‘TBD’ on the team’s probable starter spot for Sunday. “Obviously that didn’t hold true for very long. We’re ready for anything. Kohl is here, I can’t speak to the start on Sunday. We’re not ready to name a starter. We’re going to probably wait until after tomorrow’s game to be able to do that.
“(Parker’s) obviously going to be away for some period of time right now. We’re all thinking of him. Kohl is here to help stabilize everything going on. He could fill a few different roles. We don’t know how he’s going to be used yet to this point, but he’s done a nice job for us with basically everything we’ve asked him to do to this point. So it’s a good feeling to be able to call him up.”
Stewart has a 4.50 ERA in 16 innings with the big club this season, and a 5.64 mark with Triple-A Rochester in 59 innings. His ERA spiked from his appearance last time out, when he allowed eight earned runs in 4.2 innings against Pawtucket (Boston Triple-A) in a loss. Stewart hasn’t allowed fewer than three runs in any minor-league appearance since May 22, when he tossed five scoreless innings against the Buffalo Bisons at home.
Former Twins pitcher Liam Hendriks was named as an injury replacement for Tampa Bay’s Charlie Morton for next week’s All-Star Game in Cleveland. Hendriks, who is essentially Oakland’s closer at the moment, was DFA’d by the A’s last season but passed through waivers unclaimed and remained in the organization.
He’s been given another shot, and has taken it and ran with it this season. In 48.2 innings, Hendriks has a 1.29 ERA (2.18 FIP) with 60 strikeouts in 48.2 innings pitched. Perhaps even more impressively, Hendriks has allowed just one home run despite having an incredibly low 28.8 percent groundball rate.
The Aussie’s stuff has spiked even more this season, as he’s averaging a career-high 95.7 mph on his four-seam fastball while throwing a nasty high-80s slider as well.
Boston Globe Red Sox reporter Julian McWilliams procured a good quote from Red Sox manager Alex Cora on Friday. There’s been some angst about All-Star selections made with players withdrawing from the game due to injury, most notably because Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was named an injury replacement — drawing the ire of Yankees fans (over Gleyber Torres) and Twins fans/Puerto Rico natives (over Eddie Rosario).
It’s really not up to Cora, however: